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Business, government leaders urge B.C. to build 2nd bridge across Okanagan Lake | CBC News


Business and government leaders in B.C.’s Central Okanagan region are urging the province to seriously consider building a second crossing over Okanagan Lake amid a rapidly growing population. 

“Our region is expected to add a combined 60,000 people by 2040, yet no major infrastructure projects are on the books,” said Dan Price, chair of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, in an open letter to B.C. Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming last month.

The organization is advocating for a new bridge to connect Kelowna with West Kelowna across the Okanagan Lake. Currently there is only the W. R. Bennett Bridge, which opened in 2008.

The population in the area has grown rapidly over the past few years, with a 14-per-cent increase in the region that includes Kelowna, West Kelowna, Lake Country and Peachland — making it the fastest-growing metropolitan area in Canada according to 2021 census data.

The call for a second cross-lake bridge was first proposed in 2014 by former B.C. Liberal premier Christy Clark, also the MLA for the former Westside-Kelowna riding.

Clark said she would commit $2 million for the planning of the project, a promise she made during her campaign for re-election in 2014.

A woman in blue suit looks at far and smiles while walking.
Former premier Christy Clark, also the MLA for the former Westside-Kelowna riding, announced committing $2 million to begin planning for the second bridge crossing over the Okanagan Lake. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

A July 2017 report commissioned by the then-B.C. Liberal government showed the province’s considerations for improving transportation infrastructure in the Central Okanagan region, including building another bridge north of the Bennett Bridge, and constructing alternate motorways on the north ends of Kelowna and West Kelowna.

The report also estimated that the Bennett Bridge would not be able to accommodate more users by 2040.

After the NDP government came to power in 2017, the province continued to study ways to address growing traffic in the area, but it has rarely discussed plans for the second bridge since. 

Daybreak South14:09Should a second cross-lake bridge be built for the burgeoning vehicle traffic in Central Okanagan?

Dan Rogers, the CEO of Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, has been calling for constructing another bridge connecting both sides of the Okanagan Lake in addition to the W.R. Bennett Bridge opened in 2008. He is joined by former West Kelowna councillor Doug Findlater to discuss why a new bridge can never be more important now.

In October 2019, Kelowna city council ruled out the option, citing concerns that construction costs, which could exceed $1 billion, were too high for the municipality even with provincial funding.

Dan Rogers, CEO of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, is urging politicians at all levels of government to consider the long-term benefits of a second crossing to ease traffic congestion and enhance transportation in the Central Okanagan. 

“If you’re not doing a second crossing, what are your plans to improve Highway 97 [in] your lifetime and my lifetime while we’re in the [Central] Okanagan … [where] the motorists get stuck in traffic?” Rogers said on CBC’s Daybreak South.

‘It can be done’: former mayor

In an emailed statement to CBC News, the transportation ministry said the Bennett Bridge will have sufficient capacity through 2040 based on a 2019 review, but the need for a second bridge is still being evaluated and results will be shared soon. 

However, Aaron Thibeault, a senior planner with the City of Kelowna, said on Daybreak South Wednesday that the ministry had told the city the second bridge is currently “off the table.”

The city also wrote to CBC News saying it will focus on expanding the capacity of intersections along Highway 97 in Kelowna and West Kelowna, with help from the province. 

A white-haired man in a blue T-shirt with glasses stands in front of a traffic road.
Former West Kelowna mayor Doug Findlater says many residents in his city are still eager to see the construction of the second bridge connecting with Kelowna. (CBC)

Doug Findlater, who served as the mayor of West Kelowna during the inception of the second bridge in 2014, says residents in his city are still eager to see the project’s construction, as seen in a recent public hearing on the city’s official community plan.

“[They] are quite dismayed when there’s a realization that no planning is being done at this time,” Findlater said on Daybreak South.

“It can be done — all there needs to be is the will to do it.”

During a visit to Kelowna last June, Kevin Falcon, leader of B.C. United — formerly known as the B.C. Liberal Party — also voiced support for a second cross-lake bridge, saying the growing population in the region necessitates the infrastructure upgrade.

Clark agreed, telling CBC News that a second crossing, along with other transportation improvements, would help address issues of climate change. 

“Having cars sitting in the traffic belching exhaust is terrible for our climate,” Clark said in an interview on Monday.

“Even though [the bridge] will allow more traffic to move through, it will allow that traffic to move through in a more efficient way.”


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